SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

College Football, Ohio State, Jim Tressel

It's hard to know where to begin, but Ohio State either just had its Waterloo or Watergate, a program in disgrace, a coach forced to resign, players and hangers on seemingly corrupt, and you wonder what exactly was Ohio State running -- a floating crap game, a political party, a well-regarded football program or a circus, or some of each of the above?

Is it time either for colleges to drop football, period, given all the risks of major injury and the potential brain damage that many can incur? Is it time to de-emphasize it so that money will not corrupt it? Or is it time to call it what it is, the way the Olympics did, and pay players a sizeable enough stipend so that stuff like this will not happen? Or, will it happen regardless of the size of the stipend because stars always will want more? Or, is this the type of problem that needs to be cleansed from time to time, only to have it rise up after the cleaners -- the NCAA enforcers -- are long gone?

Questions abound on a hot northeastern night. Is Ohio State the only troubled program, or are they just the most egregious in failing to enforce the rules? Surely, there must be others, aren't there? Kids with cars or tattoos they cannot explain, kids with Apple stuff, fancy sneakers, jewelry, what have you? Kids having jobs keeping the seaweed out of the mountain climbing equipment, kids having majors that involve multiple-choice questions with partial credit for a wrong answer, all the old tricks.

And, the final question: for what purpose? Is a championship worth winning if it is not won the right way? What type of championship is that, and what are we teaching our kids and each other if we win dirty?

Hank Aaron Receives Honorary Degree from Princeton

You can read about it here.

Princeton has awarded honorary degrees to well-known athletes in the past, including Arthur Ashe, Larry Doby and Bill Russell.

Four amazing people.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sunday Musings

1. I wonder how Jayson Werth felt playing his old team today. He struck out late in the game with a few men on, when he had the chance to tie it. I'm sure that the Phillies' brass felt good about that. Could it be the case that during his time with the Nats Werth will find out just how long 7 years is?

2. My son traveled to DC for the game and texted that they were selling Nationals hats in Hebrew. I texted back telling him that Hebrew National is a brand of hot dog. It's good to have useful knowledge like that. It might make me more interesting at a cocktail party.

3. Who is the guy on the Jos. A. Bank clothing ads? I think that the government should deploy him to resolve any crisis. The man is very convincing.

4. Jim Tressel's resignation just confirms for me how messed up BCS football really is. It's like on the one hand there are rules, but on the other hand, you prevail when you figure out how to stretch them any way you can. Case in point were the stories about the schools that overrecruited on purpose, so as to deny rivals good players. Why isn't there any accountability on that front?

5. Watch out for Bill Tierney's University of Denver squad on the national lacrosse scene. Denver made the Division I Final Four and will return so long as Tierney is the coach. He'll be able to recruit because Denver's a great city and he's a legend.

6. Is anyone following the NHL playoffs? They're getting very little play in Philadelphia, which some consider to be a hockey town.

7. Is the news vacuum on the NFL talks a good thing or a bad thing?

Have a good week!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Former St. Joe's Great Boo Williams is a Huge Deal in Youth Basketball

So much so that there is a $13.5 million rec center in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia named after him. And, what seems to distinguish Williams from some of the smooth talkers, politicians, hustlers and pimps (among others) that seem to dominate the AAU scene in other parts of the country (including California), is that while Williams has prestige and influence, it's not all about him (or, as one local reporter puts it, if he's doing it for financial gain, well, it's hard to see unless he has money stashed away in his freezer or in off-shore bank accounts).

Read the whole thing and see what you think.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jayson Werth: We Wondered How Long It Would Take

Apparently, Jayson Werth's frustration with losing already has boiled over. And it's not even June 1 in the first year of a megabucks 7-year deal.

What the*#&)! did he expect? That his presence in the lineup would vault the Nats into the playoffs?

C'mon!

Fuggedaboutit.

Listen, Jayson got his payday when he inked this huge deal in the off-season. And he knew that the Nats were years away from contending.

But the reality is pretty bad. His team is almost out of contention 6 weeks before the All-Star break.

Great choice, Jayson!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When Do You Decide to Watch (or Stay for) the Entire Game?

Easy answers are post-season games, there's a no-hitter, or perhaps the world's been designated to come to an end that day. Otherwise, what are your criteria?

Call me a wimp or a Philadelphia-born pessimist, but I'm reluctant to watch after 10 innings for the precise reason that the game could go 19 innings and my team could lose, and then I'm left with being revved up at 1:20 a.m., needing to wind down before perhaps falling asleep at quarter to 2 and then getting up at 6 to go to work, where I'll be groggy, cranky and tired during a day full of (obviously important) meetings. So, to cut my losses (perhaps), I'll stick with my routine, get to bed at a reasonable hour, read something on my Kindle, turn in, have the birds wake me up and then hope that the daily paper bears news of a victory. Is that reasonable? Is that a sign that I'm not a diehard? Or, as a cousin e-mailed this morning, a wimp?

A colleague splurged on Hall of Fame club seats for last night's contest to celebrate her husband's birthday. They stayed for ten innings, bemoaned a lack of (not just timely, but just plain any) hitting, and listened to the game on their way home, but they too turned in before the game was decided. My cousin, on the other hand, elected to watch for the duration, emailed in the 15th that it was painful rooting for/hoping that Denys Baez could hold on to get the win. He went AWOL online after that, on to return to the email universe this morning to render his thoughts on the game.

Perhaps I'm not alone. The Phillies usually sell out, and out of a denominator of 45,000 or so fans, only about 5,000 stayed until the game's end. The Phils said that these men and women energized them through their passion, and I'm sure that it was a fun time. Then again, 40,000 people perhaps opted to do what I did, which goes to show you that even being a diehard has its limits.

And yet, as a caller to the Mike Missanelli Show said today, twenty-five years from now, 40,000 people will say that they were there when Wilson Valdez got the win. In twenty-five years, I'm not sure how many people will remember Wilson Valdez (who apparently drew a huge laugh from Ryan Howard when he shook off catcher Dane Sardinha despite having one and only one pitch).

What would you do?

Wilson Valdez, You're the Man!

The Phillies' utility infielder got the win in last night's 19-inning win against the Reds. He even shook off his catcher at one point.

Despite its offensive woes and injuries, there's something about this team that suggests that they don't win by accident.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Fred Wilpon Disses His Own Mets

Just when you thought that things couldn't get much worse for the Mets, their owner decided to speak publicly about some of his stars.

And he wasn't very nice, either. . . about Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, David Wright and even the entire team. No, he wasn't very nice at all.

Meanie!

At least Wright responded in a classy fashion, acknowledging Wilpon's struggles and refusing to engage in a public retort. Privately, of course, he might have texted his agent imploring him to "get me the heck out of here." That's what most normal employees would do when they lose a connection with the boss. And, yes, there would be tons of takers for Wright (at least Wilpon called him a "nice kid.").

Fred, what are you thinking? What are you on, or, what medicine have you neglected to take? Seriously, even the average Phillies' fan wouldn't wish the horror on Wilpon that he, his team and his family are enduring. That trauma has to take its toll, mentally and physically. And it's sad to see.

But even as accomplished a man as Fred Wilpon ought to know that leadership requires you to be positive in public and critical in private. Wilpon has done his team no good through being so candid in public about his disappointment in them. And I don't think that his players have spoken publicly about his shortcomings, because if they did, you could imagine Carlos Beltran saying, "Well, okay, I haven't had the career that the team thought I would have had when they signed me to a huge contract, but, then again, I wasn't stupid enough to invest with an old friend who spoke a financial dialect I didn't understand -- and English is my second language and I didn't go to college -- and whose firm was audited by Larry, Curly and Moe, and I still have my money and can live like a king in my home country while the Wilpons might be eating spam for breakfast soon, but I'm not going to say that." Instead, the Mets' players pretty much have been mute on the subject.

Can things get any worse for the Mets?

What a mess -- for everyone!

Ed DeChellis Leaves Penn State to Coach Navy (Mens' B-ball)

When I was a kid, I was helping my father work at the polls on election day. One of the political parties was hosting a lunch for its big wigs at one of the nearby country clubs. And one of them asked me how to get to that country club. I was a kid, so I had no idea. An older man was standing by, and he said, "Well, to get to [country club x], you have get kicked out of [another nearby country club, one that was more prestigious]." I supposed you had to be there, but if you lived near me and knew the people, it was hilarious.

So, at first blush, you might ask yourself, why would a basketball coach leave the Big Ten for Navy, where it's tough to recruit and as tough to win?

Well. . . first you have to get kicked out of. . . you know the punchline.

But as this article explains, Penn State didn't kick Ed DeChellis out of the tent (they just didn't offer to pull him all that far back in). After all, he had led them to their first NCAA tournament game in ten years. That's a pretty tough feat at a football school that's very far away from any big city, but the powers that be in Happy Valley didn't offer DeChellis any extension on a contract that was due to expire in 2012. So, not feeling the love near Mount Nittany, DeChellis decided to go to a place that offers a different challenge and more job security. So, while he didn't get kicked out of Penn State, he didn't get asked to stay for the long term, either.

As Dana O'Neil points out in her article, Penn State won't have the easiest time to find a big-name head coach. The Nittany Lions lost three good players, including star Talor Battle, to graduation, and the job is a rebuilding effort. Also, the season for replacing coaches came and went, so to speak, and any coach coming in will have to coach someone else's recruits exclusively for a year.

That said, Division I jobs are scarce, so here are some thoughts for replacements for DeChellis:

1. Drexel's James "Bruiser" Flint. (Probably itchy at Drexel, good coach, good connections).
2. St. Joe's Phil Martelli (he's struggled recently on Hawk Hill, but he's a well-respected coach who might relish the challenge of the Big Ten).
3. Quinnipiac's Tom Moore (once a Jim Calhoun assistant, Moore has fared well in Hamden, CT and might relish a big-time challenge if he's not in line to succeed his mentor).
4. Richmond's Chris Mooney (unlikely, as Mooney just got a huge extension from the Spiders, but he's a native Pennsylvanian, and the Big Ten is a step up from the Atlantic 10).
5. Bucknell's Dave Paulsen (took the Bison to the NCAA Tournament, also had a great record in DIII before then, but he hasn't been at Bucknell for long).
6. Harvard's Tommy Amaker (a longshot, because it seems as though he was up for bigger jobs in the off-season. While Amaker has had mixed results as a head coach, he can recruit, and the Duke pedigree doesn't hurt. And, hey, if Maryland lured away Harvard's lax coach a year ago to lead the Terps back to the Final Four, anything is possible).
7. Duke assistant Chris Collins. He's been caddying for Coach K for a while, and if there's some good karma it's that his dad, Doug, is the head coach for the Philadelphia 76ers. Okay, so State College is four hours away from Philadelphia, and I might be digging here, but perhaps there's a shot.
8. Princeton coach Mitch Henderson (just kidding, as Henderson just got to Princeton, but had he been coaching there for four years, who knows, as Penn State just lured away Princeton's men's hockey coaches as they upgrade their program to the top end of DI).

So, that's my list. What do you think?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Phillies-Rangers at the Bank Last Night

Observations:

1. First foray into the Hall of Fame Club, where the average seat for a season costs about $5,000 for 81 home games. The advantages -- padded seats, shade, private dining areas with air conditioning and a neat Hall of Fame type of gallery. Dining options were good. I bought our tickets on StubHub yesterday morning, paid over face value, but, then again, we wanted to experience the Hall of Fame Club and, so, it was worth paying a little more.

2. As for the game. . . Cliff Lee pitched a masterpiece, striking out 10 in eight innings, getting a hit, stealing a base and doing just a great job. Ryan Madson closed out his seventh straight Phillies win and had one local columnist offering that he's now the best closer in baseball. It is the case, though, that upon their return, neither Jose Contreras nor Brad Lidge will return to a closer's role. That job is Madson's to lose, which suggests a different paradigm from the usual "you don't lose your job to an injury" mentality. Translated: Contreras will get the eighth inning when he returns and if Lidge is to return, well, that's pure gravy. My guess is that Lidge is through and it would be surprising to see him pitch for the Phillies again. The Phillies will have to pay more for Madson and Cole Hamels within the next year or two, but they should have enough room in the payroll to do just that. . . John Mayberry, Jr. had a good game, has a very good OBP and will push others (Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco) for playing time. When Shane Victorino returns, you'll have him in CF, Domonic Brown in RF (platooning with Francisco) and Ibanez in LF, although Mayberry should push him. Ibanez is very close to the end of his career. . . Carlos Ruiz made an uncharacteristic baserunning blunder last night that closed out a rally for the Phillies. . . the Rangers' bats don't look too good, either. . . Rangers' starter Colby Lewis pitched a very good game last night. . . Domonic Brown's swing still looks loopy and a bit too long to me. . . Ryan Howard's home run got out of the park quickly.

3. All worries aside, the Phillies have the second-best record in baseball (behind the Indians, and it's hard to believe that they will sustain their pace) with Chase Utley due to return tomorrow, some good young relievers (Antonio Bastardo, Michael Stutes and Scott Mathieson) and some starting pitching depth (Vance Worley). Phillies' fans would love to see Denys Baez go, David Herndon to remain in the minors, Kyle Kendrick not to be too heavily relied upon and Joe Blanton, well, ditto for him. The big question regarding Utley, of course, is whether you get the early-in-the-career Utley or the over-the-hill Utley. That's probably a more serious issue than most Phillies' fans would like to admit. Nomar Garciaparra was a superstar until he fell off the table and into a utility role, but he couldn't shake the injury bug. Will that be Utley's fate, too?

All in all, as with most nights, a fun night at the Bank. Great weather (low 70's), great food, fun neighboring fans, an okay drive to and from, and a sold out, electric crowd.

The Phillies' franchise is on a great run. It won't last forever, but it's a lot of fun now.

Why Dick's Sporting Goods Won't Last

I don't know if you've had a similar experience, but the people who work at Dick's for the most part show absolutely no enthusiasm, product knowledge or initiative to get you an answer. You can tell with their body language -- shoulders slumped, tough for them to look you in the eye, as if they're entitled in life to have the job and then have no accountability for it, as opposed to taking the attitude that if you have a positive attitude and a sense of urgency, your day will go faster, someone will notice you and good things can happen in your career and, if no one notices, you'll be able to transport some good skills that you've built to a better place where the management cares. While the rank and file are somewhat to blame, it makes you wonder what the corporate mission is, what the store managers are told, and how the store managers train their staffs, if they do so at all. (My guess is that they don't train them on much, other than how the inventory is stored in the back and how to work a cash register).

Over the past year, when I've tried to buy things, trying to find someone to help you and, if you do, getting someone who knows the products or has any enthusiasm for connecting with a customer to make the customer's experience enjoyable has been rare. In the winter time, I went to buy lacrosse equipment on a specially dedicate night, and if the coaches from our organization weren't there, there was no one at Dick's who knew anything about the sport or had been trained to be of service that night. Ditto for football in the fall -- other parents helped me. A few weeks ago, I went looking for a pair of shorts for my son -- only to find that they only sold the brand in the adults' section. When I got there, I asked the sales associate whether they had the kids' version, and he didn't check, he just told me "no." So my son went back to school, only to have a friend tell him to check the kids' section -- we did and they were there (believe me, if I could have found them on-line, I would have given my money to another vendor). Finally, if you try to give feedback about a store on-line, forget about it. My preference would have been to send a private e-mail to someone with a clue so that perhaps management could sense that they're missing a golden opportunity.

But perhaps they do not care. Perhaps their business model is that they don't need much of a store staff, because sporting goods customers do their homework on-line and then come in looking for the best equipment at the best price, that they already know the features, that they sell too many goods, so it's impossible for some high school kid or sophomore in college to know anything about anything other than to slosh around the store, checking in the back on occasion or getting a store manager to deliver more details about the installation of a basketball backboard and hoop. Perhaps that's it.

But it seems to me that in an age when things are impersonal, that's a lost opportunity. Customers like to talk about features, they like to have a conversation, and, believe it or not, if customers see an effort they might be more likely to reward it with a purchase. Not to mention the good the average sales associate can do by pointing out clearance items or specials to help move merchandise. Instead, it seems like the average sales associate at Dick's comes in solely for a paycheck and, perhaps, for the comradery with other sales associates. But them don't seem to appreciate the customer or believe in what they are selling.

Note to potential competitors: come into the field with good locations, good inventory and a sales team that is enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and you will take away market share from Dick's. Note to existing, smaller stores -- offer service, offer knowledge, hustle, find something from a supplier and bond with local athletic associations, and you, too, will have a good niche.

Because if you go to Dick's, they think that they've got your business, no matter how much (or little) effort they put into the sale.

And that doesn't sound like much of a strategy.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Rest in Peace, "Macho Man"

Randy "Macho Man" Savage is dead at 58. The entire pro wrestling world mourns his passing.

His real name was Randy Poffo, and his brother was "Leaping Lanny" Poffo, who wrestled around the same time that Savage did. Savage was one of the leading lights when pro wrestling rose to great heights, battling with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Ricky "The Dragon"Steamboat, George "The Animal" Steele, "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan, King Kong Bundy, Big John Studd and many others. He was a good athlete and a great entertainer, and he will be missed.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Phillies Broadcasters

Listening to Chris Wheeler underscores the depth of loss the fans suffered upon the passing of both Richie Ashburn and Harry Kalas.

Wheels was a Major League apologist/pollyanna for awful Phillies' teams during the years when Bill Giles was the president and called the Phillies a "small market" team. Now, he's a master of the obvious and trite, tries too hard and pales in comparison to both Gary Mathews and Larry Andersen, neither of whom will go down as all-time color commentators.

My wife, a baseball enthusiast by marriage, offered tonight that "it's just painful to listen to him."

Tom McCarthy, the Phillies' very good play-by-play man, deserves better.

So do the fans.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's Not Just Football Players Who Suffer From Too Many Hits to the Head

This bit of idiocy comes from 46 year-old boxer Bernard Hopkins.

The subject: Donovan McNabb.

The hits -- literally and figuratively -- just keep on coming.

And who really cares what Bernard Hopkins thinks about Donovan McNabb, as, when it comes to football, he's an observer just like everyone else who is not on the field.

Enough said.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Chase Utley Hits Two Home Runs

Okay, so it was in "extended spring training," but he's on the mend, trying to heal and get back to the big leagues. It's an auspicious start, if only because it's better than, say, going oh for two and swinging and missing badly.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Botching the Adverb is a Must if You're in a Baseball Uniform

"He pitched good."

"I hit it good."

It's almost as though there's an unwritten rule that you must not, under any circumstances, use proper grammar and the word "well." About as unwritten, I think, as the rule that a team should not bunt or steal if it's up more than 7 runs.

Do you recall any manager or player saying, "He pitched well tonight." "He hit that ball really well." The broadcasters might use proper grammar as a way to honor their teachers and not irritate their parents, but the managers, coaches and players seemingly are constitutionally barred from using the word "well."

Gary Williams Retiring at Maryland

Williams had a great career. Now, of course, the speculation will run rampant as who will get this job, one of the best in college basketball. Before we get to the speculation, let's consider the top jobs in college b-ball:

Duke
North Carolina
Kentucky
Kansas
Indiana (even post-Bob Knight, still a great job with a rich tradition)
UCLA (hard to argue with the dynasties, isn't it?).

Then, there is another tier, and it's hard to figure out all of the next, say, 14, but I'd offer the following:

Maryland
Ohio State
Florida
Texas
Michigan State
Georgetown
Villanova (okay, I'd argue Penn, Temple and St. Joe's, too, but I'd lose)
Pittsburgh (at least for now)

and, okay, I do give up.

But I don't want to digress, so let's consider who Maryland might consider:

1. VCU's Shaka Smart (one of the two hottest coaches out there).
2. Butler's Brad Stevens (one of the two hottest coaches out there).
3. Gonzaga's Mark Few.
4. Richmond's Chris Mooney (if Smart and Stevens were tied at 1, Mooney is #3).
5. Arizona's Sean Miller (successful out west, might want bigger spotlight in the east).
6. Temple's Fran Dunphy (outstanding coach, successful in A-10).
7. Notre Dame's Mike Brey (can he really win it all in South Bend).
8. Michigan's John Bellein (successful everywhere; eastern roots).
9. Oregon State's Craig Robinson (long shot, but being the First Brother-in-Law has it's privileges).

I'll stop there. This is one of the plum jobs in all of college basketball. Expect a big-name hire.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Phillies-Nationals Tonight

Observations:

1. All 25 player on the Nats do belong in the Majors. They just don't belong on the same team.

2. The baseball writers' nation still puts access above tough questioning (the way they did when they somehow missed the steroids era while it was happening). Case in point, the Nats' Jayson Werth. Why hasn't a Philly writer asked him the following question: "Hey, Jayson, how does it feel to have signed a lucrative contract with a perennial loser that looks like it will continue to lose for years?" Perhaps even with Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.

3. Out of town broadcasters might have said something to the effect of, "well, it's the middle of the game in Philadelphia, and they're pitching another shutout. Who's going for them tonight? Roy Halladay? Cliff Lee?" Nope, it as 23 year-old Vance Worley, who's pitched 12 shutout innings in his first two starts in place of Joe Blanton. Baseball Prospectus projects him as a #4 starter with a better upside than Kyle Kendrick. If Worley keeps on pitching like this, the Phillies will have a high-class problem when Blanton returns.

4. It was $&*@~# freezing at the ballpark tonight, in the low 50's, winds whipping, winds blowing at you, just a cold night at the ballpark. We wore middle-weight jackets, gloves, put our hoods over our heads and used the warmers that they sell at places like Dick's. Still, it's warming to see the 139th straight sellout (albeit with a lot of no-shows) and to participate in an electric atmosphere.

Phillies are 20-9 -- without Chase Utley, without Domonic Brown, without Brad Lidge, all while playing a relatively weak schedule. Then again, you play who you play, and the Phillies have been taking it to 'em.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall: Deep Thinker, Victim of Too Many Hits to the Head or Out of His Element?

Mendenhall Tweeted on the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Next thing you know, we'll have Christiane Amanpour running off tackle for the Steelers.

Two Baseball Statistics I'd Like to See

Unless, of course, you can convince me that they're not all that telling.

I know that the Baseball Prospectus guys have all sorts of stats to measure all sorts of things. My biggest issue with them is that they speak in a type of code normally reserved for experts in, well, codes, such as the Internal Revenue Code, healthcare reimbursement codes, the Uniform Commercial Code and the like. So, if you dial back the clock a bit, they can sound like either Cliffie the Mailman from Cheers or, worse, the Dave Meyer character (the direct mail guy) from LA Law (where, on one show, he had a memorable string citation to all of the small cities outside Los Angeles that his direct-mail efforts could reach). I can't really tell you the difference between BABIP and WXRL and some of the rest, and I do have an advanced degree (then again, perhaps I'm just too lazy to read the introduction, which has a Rosetta Stone to help you decipher the metrics; then, then again, perhaps they make all this stuff up to dazzle you with their brilliance, make you want to join the bandwagon, and then get you to stay mute with your questions because if you were to raise them, you might risk humiliation from the smart guys because, well, they're smart and obviously, from your questions, you're not). Being a celebrant of the better aspects of human nature, I'll credit the BP writers for their brilliance but will suggest that they could become better explainers.

That said, why don't we calculate two numbers for pitchers -- on-base percentage yielded and total bases per nine innings yielded. The former will mirror the OBP stats for hitters that are so valuable, and the latter will go further than OBP by telling you how many bases that are yielded. The reason I think the latter is compelling is that you might have a pitcher with a decent OBPY (on-base percentage yielded) but a worse-than-average TB/9 (because the guy, when he yields baserunners, gives up a bunch of extra-base hits). For what it's worth, I think that it might be fun to examine these numbers both separately and then in concert with the other metrics that the stat wonks examine to determine if there's anything that we can learn from them.

Or not.

Food for thought.

Monday, May 02, 2011

2 of the NFL Draft's Top 54 Picks Went to Temple

That is not a typo, Muhammad Wilkerson and Jaiquawn Jarrett went to the Jets in the first round and Eagles in the second round, respectively. Last time I checked, yes, while Penn State did beat the Owls this season, the Nittany Lions didn't have 2 kids in the top 54. Those of us who have rooted for the Owls year after year for four decades are smiling widely at this development.

Go Owls!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Roger McDowell Got Off Easy. . . and I'm Surprise That the Atlanta Braves Haven't Taken More Serious Action

Seriously. . . if you were at work, cursed out customers, made hate-related statements and threatened someone, you'd lose your job.

So Roger McDowell should be thanking Bud Selig, the Braves' administration, the MLB gods and whomever else for the fact that he didn't get fired as pitching coach of the Atlanta Braves. Because if he worked for your company, it's hard to fathom that he wouldn't have lost his job for acting this way.

Read this article and see what you think.

Quite frankly, I'm surprised, and I'm not sure that this is MLB's finest moment. Actually, it is not.

Sunday Observations

1. Roy Halladay's first 18 pitches against the Mets yesterday were strikes.

2. The ESPN crew today pointed out that after Halladay won the Cy Young Award last season, he had a replica made and gave it to his catcher, Carlos Ruiz.

3. Just wondering who the Philadelphia Eagles will play at cornerback and on the defensive line next season. Also wondering how many seasons a 26 year-old guard will have left in him, even if he didn't start to play football until age 22.

4. Is Father Time starting to catch up with the Boston Celtics?

5. As teams advance in the playoffs, their weaknesses become more pronounced. The Flyers' 7-3 loss to the Bruins in Philadelphia yesterday underscores that despite how much his teammates might like him, Brian Boucher is not the answer in goal for the team. And neither are his back-ups.

6. Will Andre Iguodala be back in Philadelphia next season? Will there be a season next season? The NBA players need to be cautious about one thing -- their game isn't quite as popular as professional football. If the players walk, causing a shortened season or no season, the fans will view it as an opportunity to save money for a season.

7. Talked to an acquaintance with knowledge on the topic -- Stephon Marbury is doing fine in China, because he's embracing the Chinese culture. That's interesting, because the talented guard had trouble embracing the U.S. hoops/pass it first culture in the U.S. Perhaps, though, Marbury will be to Chinese hoops what the Buick is to Chinese cars -- get there first, and they'll love you.

8. Talked to a friend who runs a local baseball/softball association. Another friend once remarked that he was the girls' softball commissioner in his northern New Jersey town and that he once played college rugby, and that softball administration was rougher. Well, this fellow told me that the parents are relentless, and that travel organizations are cannibalizing his desire to build stronger rec leagues that send all-stars to post-season tournaments (as opposed to having full-year travel teams). One parent led an insurrection that took half a travel team to a nearby organization, only to have another leader of that group apologize afterward for participating in it (realizing that he had made a mistake). Sheesh! I told him that he should have his association award certificates to the parents of would-be travel kids that certify their travel worthiness (so that they can display them on their cars) but then skip the travel organization altogether. He laughed. As it is, he's trying to make tryouts much more objective, so as to award spots to the best players (and to avoid the worst aspects of daddyball). After getting an overall commitment in a meeting that went past midnight, he told me that the intrigue is starting again, and pockets of resistance are forming. Stay tuned.

9. I told the commissioner of my idea, which he liked. First, involve "empty nester" dads who played in college, coached it, taught it, etc. and have them run the travel programs. Have them run the tryouts and serve as the nominal head coach of the team. Second, hire (at a reasonable stipend) recent college grads learning to get some coaching credentials to coach third base and make the lineup decisions. Most likely, these folks also can teach the fundaments pretty well. Third, parents would have the role of scorekeeper and "team parent." Even with that, you'll have the bands of parents of talented players trying to muscle organizations to make room for their kids in a packaged deal (think LeBron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh) and then to call the shots regarding coaching decisions. Perhaps you can prevent that, perhaps not, but local organizations should do more grass roots work, do more to strengthen their rec leagues, and do more to make all experiences more enjoyable.

So, those are the observations for Sunday. What are yours?